My first cookbook, given to me when I was a child, was a collection of recipes inspired by the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Every single dish contained honey (or "hunny," as Pooh would say). I wish I could find it now, in response to Joanne Marchand's request for a basic cake recipe that uses honey rather than sugar.
I did manage to experiment with some honey-loving recipes, one for a standard chocolate layer cake and the other for vanilla cupcakes.
There are also a few general tips when swapping in honey for baking. Honey is sweeter than sugar. Baked goods made with honey tend to be moist and dense. They also tend to brown faster than those made with granulated sugar, so you need to keep an eye on them while baking, and perhaps reduce the oven temperature.
Generally, for every 250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar, use 185 ml (3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp) honey and reduce the other liquid ingredients by 30 ml (2 tbsp). Look for recipes that contain sour cream or buttermilk, which help to neutralize honey's higher acidic content, or add 2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda.
Taking the issue of sugar-free baking even further, does anyone have some really good recipes for baking with sugar substitutes?
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Chocolate Honey Cake
500 ml (2 cups) cake flour
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) baking soda
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) butter, softened
310 ml (11/4 cups) honey
85 g (3 oz) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
150 ml (2/3 cup) buttermilk
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). Butter two 22-cm (9-inch) cake pans and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, sift flour. Whisk in baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter until fluffy. Add honey gradually, beating until mixture is smooth and pale yellow. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Beat in chocolate. Gently but thoroughly fold in flour mixture alternating with buttermilk, and beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in vanilla.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes. Cool on a rack, run a knife around the edge of each pan and invert onto a plate. Frost as desired. If you want to continue the sugar-free theme, a cream cheese-honey icing would work nicely.
Tester's notes: With the sifted cake flour and buttermilk, this cake has a light texture, tender crumb and a subtle honey taste.
Honey Vanilla Cupcakes
375 ml (11/2 cups) all-purpose flour
7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) baking powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
60 ml (1/4 cup) butter, slightly softened
30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable shortening, at room temperature
250 ml (1 cup) honey
175 ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk
Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F). Line a 12-cup standard cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and shortening until fluffy. Turn mixer to low and gradually add honey. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating briefly after each addition. (Mixture will not be smooth at this point.) Gently stir in flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, and starting and finishing with flour mixture.
Spoon into prepared cupcake liners about three-quarters full. (Batter will be quite thick.) Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
Tester's notes: This recipe uses quite a lot of honey, which means a pronounced honey taste but also a moist and dense texture, more like a muffin than a standard cupcake. The honey flavour would pair well with lemon curd or jam. This recipe can be doubled.